Today is the first day of Kurban Bayrami (or Eid al-Adha) here in Turkey which is one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar and is best likened to Christmas to us heathens. I actually had to do some research to fully understand Kurban Bayrami and why it is so important to Muslims around the world and why there has been a flurry of activity in my neighbour’s homes over the past few days.
Simply put Kurban means festival or holiday and is used to describe all national or religious holidays here. There are two major religious holidays here in Turkiye Seker Bayram and the festival that we are celebrating now Kurban Bayram.
Kurban Bayram is a 4 1/2 day festival which takes place 70 days after Ramazan has ended. It is known as the Festival of Sacrifice referring to the story of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismael at God’s bequest. Pretty much the same deal as Abraham and Isaac if you are running in Christian circles.
The festival is all about charity and community. Each family (who can afford to do so) will purchase an animal for the sacrifice and over the past few weeks there has been an abundance of animals to be found grazing on any spare parcel of land around the city. After the animal has had its throat cut and the life-blood has drained away the meat is split into three – one third to your family, one third to your neighbour’s and one third to the poor. It’s a lovely idea (well except for the sacrifice that is). If you cannot afford to purchase an animal you can make a donation to an organization such as Türk Hava Kurumu and have animals slaughtered in your name. The organization will also make sure the food is correctly distributed to the poor.
I tried to find an image to add to my blog that reflected Kurban Bayram but to be honest most of the images made me a little sick and they were way too graphic for my PG brain so perhaps this cartoon will sum it up for you (although do not ask me to translate as the only thing I could understand was “Ipneye bak” which roughly means “Look at the asshole”).
My first experience of Kurban Bayrami was many years ago when Daughter was quite young. I remember all the wonderful cooking and the many visitors and parties. There was a lot of love and a lot of laughter coming from all the homes you visited. I also remember the sacrifices being made in the local park or in our case the front garden *sigh*. My brother in law had purchased a sheep and brought it home ready for sacrifice however Daughter saw it and thought it was a pet so placed a large pink bow around its neck. Here the sheep stayed for two days being fed and loved by Daughter. On the third day she ran downstairs to feed her “Baa Baa” only to find it had disappeared bringing tears and tantrums by the 3 year old. I, of course, had to explain that her pet had gone to stay on a friend’s farm although I knew full well that the sheep was currently sitting in the refrigerator upstairs in easy to handle pieces ready for his wife to package for family and friends that evening. A word of advice for those of you visiting family during Bayram – if you are squeamish don’t open the refrigerator!
So here we are again dressed in our finest clothes (not really), ready to celebrate Kurban Bayrami with The Turk’s family. I reminded Daughter of “Baa Baa” last night and horrified she informed me that she is not eating any meat for the next week (or possibly ever again!). Having heard this statement a number of times in the past I merely smiled and nodded in agreement after all I can hear the preparations that are underway for tonight’s feast. Someone remind me to go for a run tomorrow as I know I am going to eat way too much tonight – and this is just Day 1. They will need to roll me home after 4 days of this!
During Bayram there will also be a lot of music and dancing in the streets. From early morning until late evening men will walk through the village banging away on their davul (drum) and playing their ney (wooden flute). If they come to your door give them a few lira. Don’t make the same mistake I did during my first Bayram and give 10TL because they will never leave! Similarly the local children will also visit your door during Bayram and wish you “Iyi Bayramlar” in the hope of getting some sweets so have a bag of sweeties handy for them when they knock.
Be aware that during any national holiday here in Turkey most shops, banks and government offices are closed. Leading up to Bayrami the shopping centres are overflowing with people stocking up on everything they will need over the coming festival days. There is also a lot of people on the roads with family members travelling great distances to visit loved ones. Intercity buses are packed, flights are sold out and public transport operates on a holiday schedule so you may find yourself waiting some time for a dolmus (I know I did).
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